The Jewish, Christian and Muslim scriptures are peppered with angels. In the Bible they are seen as God's messengers and often announce the birth of a prophet like Samson, Isaac, John the Baptist, Jesus. In the biblical accounts each of these births was unexpected. Isaac's mother Sarah was beyond the age of child bearing and didn't believe the news that she would bear a child in her old age; John's father Zechariah was struck dumb because he didn't believe the angel telling him his wife, Elizabeth, would also bear a child in old age; Mary on the other hand believed the announcement that she would have a child even though she was a virgin. This idea of a miraculous conception or birth is not unknown in other religions even where angels don't have a prominent place. The Lord Krishna in Hinduism, the Lord Buddha in Buddhism had unusual conceptions and displayed supernatural characteristics when they were born as did Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism who was born laughing. Like all scriptures it's not what these stories say but what they mean that's important. The stories are much more about the significance of the babies who grow up to reveal an important spiritual message than about the details of their conceptions and births. They show that these miraculous events are an initiative of God and a gift to humanity.
Angels are also seen as protectors and some religions like Zoroastrianism, Judaiam Christianity and Islam believe in the idea of guardan angels, Each individual, nation has a particular angel though in Islam there is an angel to the left and right of individuals recording their good and bad deeds as well as one before and behind. This gives a sense of being surrounded by spiritual beings who are loving and caring which can be a comforing notion even if secularists would tell us it's an illusion. Perhaps it's in this sense that we want to believe in angels and perhaps it's this desire for comfort that makes them so popular today even with those who have no religious affiliation.
But are they real? Well, I have no idea but somehow it doesn't matter because it's the meaning behind them that matters. For me the meaning is that we are surrounded by energies that are beyond our human perception, that we can call upon this energy whenever we need it, that we have a spirit and influence which is greater than our visible appearance. Angels are a symbol, a metaphor for the life, energy and love of God that religious people believe surrounds everyone. The idea of a guardian angel helps us get behind outward appearances to see the hidden depths within people, that hidden spiritual dimension that Gerard Manely Hopkins calls ' the dearest friendship deep down things'.
One of my community told a story about angels. She had been looking for a location for a creation spirituality centre and was looking for a rural beauty spot. Most of the ones she found were too expensive so she was beginning to despair of ever finding a place. On retreat she had an intuition of the Angel of Liverpool (where she lived) whom she understood as sad and rather depressed and determined to make friends with her. She did this and eventually set up her centre in Liverpool. This idea of making friends with the angel of Liverpool makes sense to me. To make friends with the spirit of a person or place helps us see the person, place, organisation or whatever in a new light. We can recognise their hidden depths, fears, cares, joys, loves etc and this can then make it easier to relate to them. I like the idea of making friends with people's angels, of making friends with my own angel. Being aware of my angel helps get me in touch with my intuition, my inner wisdom, my good spirit and in that sense my angel is a protector, encourager and inspirer. So in that sense I'm happy to say I believe in angels.